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2014 Preview: New York Mets

Mar 3, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

Zack Wheeler Getty Getty Images

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2014 season. Next up: The New York Mets.

The Big Question: Can the Mets finish with 80 or more wins for the first time since 2008? 

After abstaining from the free agent market last off-season, the Mets jumped in and signed Curtis Granderson to a four-year, $60 million deal to patrol the outfield at Citi Field. The Mets had some newfound financial flexibility with Johan Santana and Jason Bay’s contracts off the books. They also added starter Bartolo Colon with a two-year, $20 million deal – their answer to losing Matt Harvey to Tommy John surgery.

However, the Mets didn’t do a whole lot aside from signing Granderson and Colon. They signed Chris Young to a one-year deal worth $7.25 million. He’ll play opposite Granderson in right field.

The Mets will be relying on a lot of young players, including top prospect Travis d’Arnaud behind the plate. In his first taste of the big leagues last season, d’Arnaud struggled, posting a .548 OPS in 112 plate appearances.

The bullpen is another area of youth. Bobby Parnell is expected to be the closer after recovering from a neck injury during the second half of the 2013 season. Parnell has been quite reliable, averaging at least three strikeouts for every one walk and posting a sub-3.00 ERA in three out of the last four seasons. Behind Parnell, Scott Rice and Kyle Farnsworth may be the only members born prior to 1986.

What else is going on?  

  • The Mets are reluctantly going with Ruben Tejada at shortstop to start the season.  Many expected them to wind up with Stephen Drew, who is still a free agent. Tejada posted a .519 OPS last season and the team wasn’t thrilled with his conditioning. Something will give between now and the trade deadline; it’s unlikely the Mets stick with him at shortstop, especially if they are competitive in the first half.
  • Lucas Duda and Ike Davis are battling it out for the job at first base. The loser will wind up on the bench and likely traded. Duda posted a .767 OPS in 384 plate appearances last season, spending a majority of his playing time in left field. Davis had a nightmare season, posting an even .500 OPS before a demotion to Triple-A Las Vegas in mid-June. When he returned to the Mets on July 5, he was much improved. He didn’t rediscover his power stroke, but he cut down on the strikeouts and drew more walks. From July 5 through the end of the season, Davis drew 38 walks and struck out 35 times in 170 plate appearances.
  • The Mets have another positional battle in center field. Juan Lagares was great there defensively last season, but left a lot to be desired with the bat. The Mets lack a lead-off hitter as well, and that could spur them to give Eric Young, Jr. a shot. In the event Young beats out Lagares, Lagares could start at Triple-A. Young would start in left, Granderson would move to right, and Young would move to center.
  • The Mets are hoping Zack Wheeler can be to them in 2014 as Harvey was last season. Wheeler made 17 starts in 2013, finishing with a 3.42 ERA in an even 100 innings. He walked a few too many – 44 unintentionally – so he would have to improve his control. But he’s 23 years old and the sky is the limit for the right-hander 

Prediction: The Mets are better than they were last season, even without Matt Harvey. They could go back and forth with the Phillies between third and fourth place throughout the season, but I have them ultimately finishing ahead of the Phillies in third place in the NL East.

  1. chill1184 - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    Would be nice to at least finish .500 (82-80 record) and not have to actively pay attention to the Steelers until actual football starts (not in end of June-early July as I’ve been doing these last few years),

    • craigssideburns - Mar 3, 2014 at 1:58 PM

      Your calculator might be malfunctioning.

  2. xdj511 - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:12 PM

    I think this team may be competitive, but there are four huge question marks that need to be dealt with. 1. Can D’Arnaud stay healthy and play to his potential? If not the Mets have a huge hole at catcher. 2. Whether Davis or Duda, can the Mets get any production from first base? 3. The health of Niese. He’s their only left-handed starter and if he ends up missing significant time due to shoulder problems, it’s going to be difficult to replace him. 4. Who is playing shortstop? Will they eventually sign Drew or go with Ruben Tejada?

    If everything falls into place for the Mets this season they can be a contender for the wild card, at least, heading into 2015 and the return of Matt Harvey.

  3. nymets4ever - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:16 PM

    I truly feel that this is the year they break .500…Let’s Go Mets

    • bfunk1978 - Mar 3, 2014 at 3:59 PM

      Your comment broke .500 in +/- rating, and I have a feeling it’s doing better than the Mets will.

  4. President Charles Logan - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:30 PM

    They arent the worst team in Baseball , but they wont finish at .500 . they will finish 4th place in the Division, maybe they can be one of these pain in the a s s teams in September that ruin’s someone’s Playoff chances.

  5. Last Road Reviews - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:46 PM

    I would love nothing more than the Mets to get on track, but I don’t see it. Anything is possible Mets could win 97 games or they can lose 97 as well. My prediction is 74-78 wins. I wouldn’t be shocked if they win 81-82, but that’s pushing it.

    In order for them to be .500 a lot has to go right. To actually be in the playoff hunt almost all has to go right.

    Ike must get back to where it seemed he was getting before the injury in 2011. If Duda he has to get back to where he was in 2011 and build on that.

    Yes Tejeda is a light hitter. But pre-2013 he was solid. Chris Young has to bounce back. Largares has to at the very least hold his own with the bat. Granderson has to be solid. I have high hopes for Travis, but as a C I think 2015-2016 is when we will start to see the player scouts loved. C is tough to play add that with hitting I think he will be decent and if he is as good as predicted give it another year or 2. But for Mets to contend he has to develop sooner rather than later.

    I have high hopes for Wheeler, but I think he has a very good year, but not Harvey 2013 like. Like Travis I think in another year we’ll see Zack Wheeler dominate. Gee cannot get off to that poor a start again and Niese must remain healthy and consistent.

    I just don’t see Granderson having that much a better year than Byrd. However if Young or Travis have big years that could push them to .500 (or instead Ike/Duda).

    2015 I expect nothing less than a team that contends. 2014 I see more the same. Odds of all going right are just too slim. But if they do or most I can see them within the hunt for the 2nd WC.

    But I see them at 74-78. But again a few things go right 81-82. As doubtful as it seems if all goes right or about everything they can contend, but again I see 74-78 as the best bet.

    • karlkolchak - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:48 PM

      81-82 would be a real trick considering they only play 162 games.

      • Last Road Reviews - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:51 PM

        Really bro? 81-82 wins. It was fairly obvious what I meant. I just mentioned 74-78 wins and later wrote 81-82 is possible. I figured you would be smart enough to realize what I meant.

        Gave you too much credit. I never said they would be 81-82. Stop being a damn troll

      • karlkolchak - Mar 3, 2014 at 1:44 PM

        Misunderstood your meaning. My apologies.

      • recoveringcubsfan - Mar 3, 2014 at 4:53 PM

        Math is poop anyway. Why bother?

  6. thebadguyswon - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:54 PM

    Another Mets fan that does not see .500

    I think the bullpen and rotation will be solid. Too many Ks in that lineup though. 79-83 for me.

  7. bostonboresme - Mar 3, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    The Mets are finishing last, only because it looks like Miami can pitch.

    • Old Gator - Mar 3, 2014 at 1:18 PM

      Yes, if the Feesh staff stays healthy, but more has to go right than that. Their run production has been awful for years now, and their primary improvement in that area was the addition by subtraction of Tweeter. Some of the rookies and sophomores have got to bloom this season or they’re going to lose a lot of games at scores like 4-3, 3-2, 2-1 and, when facing better peetching, they’ll be shut out quite a bit. This can change if some of the youngsters settle down to business – but this cheapskate ownership keeps pushing kids into the show too early, and I still see most of them being a year away at least.

      • recoveringcubsfan - Mar 3, 2014 at 4:59 PM

        A team like the Marlins right now, though, could conceivably have one of those “too young to know they suck” seasons where they win 80 games through youth, energy, dumb luck, and raw skills, etc. That’s one possibility and, I think most can agree, it’s a possibility that is not available to the Mets or Phillies. I’m calling it: third place in the East!

      • gloccamorra - Mar 4, 2014 at 12:29 AM

        But Gator, what about that new, shiny crop of veterans? They have to be better than the under-achieving old veterans they dumped. I’ll bet they get more than one homer out of their third basemen too. Those new old veterans could lead the way. As they say in Hollywood, it sounds crazy but it just. might. work!

      • Old Gator - Mar 4, 2014 at 7:24 AM

        Yeah, they do say that in Hollywood. For example, in the classic “C” horror film Beginning of the End, someone came up with the idea of mounting a loudspeaker on a boat in Lake Michigan and playing grasshopper mating calls to lure the swarm of giant locusts overrunning the city into the lake to drown before they ate every last stuffed pizza. One of the military guys says pretty much the same thing: it’s crazy but it just. Might. Work.

        It does.

        Fifth place, fourth if it just might works.

      • Old Gator - Mar 4, 2014 at 9:52 AM

        Recovering: older teams who do know that a younger team sucks have all sorts of ways of letting the kids know that, for example, outpitching, outhitting and outfielding them. You’re framing a pretty Chaplinesque variant on Angels in the Outfield but, very much like it just. Might. Work, that kind of stuff happens mainly in Hollywood.

  8. sdelmonte - Mar 3, 2014 at 1:55 PM

    So Bill doesn’t actually answer the question, does he?

    80 wins is possible, but everything needs to break right, since it’s a tough division. But I see an exciting young team with a lot of pitching talent likely to make an impact at some time during the year. The bullpen is still thin, but a healthy Parnell plus Vic Black and maybe Jennry Mejia might be better than expected. I love the starters. If only they could do something with shortstop.

  9. rcp29 - Mar 3, 2014 at 1:59 PM

    The Mets won only 74 games last year, and that was good enough for third place. Miami and Philly stink, but the Mets are mediocre at best, and they’re not cracking the Braves or Nats barring catastrophic injuries. Let’s face it – 2014 was doomed when Harvey went down. Just to get to .500, they need to improve by 7 games while replacing one of the best pitchers in baseball (at least last year) with Bartolo Colon. And they did virtually nothing to improve on offense, given that Curtis Granderson will have a good year even if he just replicated Marlon Byrd’s scorching .291/.336/.848 with 24 homers from last year. And this is just to get back to 74! 81? That’s gonna take Stephen Drew, a breakout year from Lagares with the bat (Eric Young has nil potential), a return to form from Ike, and another killer year from Captain America. And again, if all this happens, they get to 81. So forgive Mets fans for being pessimistic about the team with the 24th highest payroll in baseball.

  10. musketmaniac - Mar 3, 2014 at 2:07 PM

    vic black will have good year.

  11. Francisco (FC) - Mar 3, 2014 at 3:12 PM

    the Mets jumped in and signed Curtis Granderson to a four-year, $60 million deal to patrol the outfield at Citi Field

    That’s a pretty expensive rent-a-cop.

    • cackalackyank - Mar 3, 2014 at 3:53 PM

      Mets fans are not gonna like Granderson’s @ 190 strikeouts. They also had best not be expecting 43 homers from him now that he is playing in Citi Field, either. Improving on last years record might be reaching a bit.

      • xdj511 - Mar 3, 2014 at 4:14 PM

        Yeah, I’m worried that Granderson is just going to be a high strikeout, low average, aging player who hits a lot of baseballs to the warning track of Citi Field kind of player. Think Jason Bay. *shudder*

  12. tsi431 - Mar 3, 2014 at 3:38 PM

    It always comes down to the bullpen (for the Mets). You can spend money on the bullpen, but that usually never helps. It either clicks or it doesn’t. If the bullpen is strong (top 5) they will be in the playoffs. The bullpen lost plenty of games last year, as always.

  13. bfunk1978 - Mar 3, 2014 at 4:16 PM

    The Braves and Nats on paper are so good that I half-way expect the other 3 NLE teams to each lose 22-25 games total to those 2 teams alone. That means the Mets would have to be really good against the rest of the league to hit .500.

  14. recoveringcubsfan - Mar 3, 2014 at 5:04 PM

    I have nothing else to add, I just want to say: Curtis Granderson is the best athlete to ever play at Illinois-Chicago. He also showed up for his final exam in History during a summer session, right after he got drafted. That was a nice display of character from a kid who just became a millionaire and could have been forgiven for skipping it. I’ve always liked him for that one reason.

  15. arrooo - Mar 3, 2014 at 5:26 PM

    72 wins, max

  16. deepstblu - Mar 3, 2014 at 7:34 PM

    A columnist in my Sunday paper actually wondered if the Mets might get to 90 wins this season. No, we don’t have legal marijuana here.

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